Analyzing the French Presidential Election: Providing a Pathway to a New Generation of Heads of State

By Arthur Le Nena, UN Programs Intern, GFDD

Wherever we live, whoever we are, we share the same responsibility, make our planet great again” stated the French President Emmanuel Macron in reaction to the decision of the President of the United States, Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on June 1st. One month after the defeat of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, France seems far away from the shade of isolationism. At 39 years old, the youngest President of France since Napoleon ruled over France in the 19th century, the election of President Macron gives as much hope as it does raise questions. Considered by many as a possible turning point for the world, the French election has brought a fresh air in international relations, strengthening the opportunity for greater cooperation for change, particularly within the European Union.

This election, which took place after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s election in the United States of America, was as uncertain and dangerous for the international community. Indeed, the opposition during the second round of this election between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, slowly turned into a choice in favor of or against globalization. On the first hand, Marine Le Pen campaigned on ideas such as isolationism, nationalism, promising to leave the European Union while Emmanuel Macron promoted liberalism, progressivism, and humanism. Defeating the two main parties of France, this election was also a demonstration of the rising criticism against the political establishment in democracies across the globe.

SG meets with President of France
UN Photo

Through the victory of Emmanuel Macron the French people decided to remain part of the global community. But it also put forward a claim for real change, that Emmanuel Macron will have to promote. Even though he was the Minister of Economy during the term of the former socialist President Francois Hollande, Emmanuel Macron had never been elected to a public office before. Moreover, he won thanks to the support of “En Marche!” (Onward!), a political movement he created one year ago. At the national level, his election could represent a long-awaited generational change in French politics that have been dominated by the same faces for years. Illustrating this new political context, close to 40% of the actual Members of Parliament won’t run for a new term in June. Finally, by putting together a new political strategy and challenging the traditional political parties, the success of Macron new government in France  could catalyze the development of similar movements in Europe and abroad.

The election was a test for the European Union as Marine Le Pen, European MP, promised to leave this grouping of States. On the contrary, Emmanuel Macron focused his campaign on a stronger European Union. His first meeting with Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, was the occasion to open the door for renegotiations of European treaties and pave the way for change in Europe. His political agenda includes measures to revive the regional organization, including the creation of a European Defense Fund with a European Security Council or the implementation of a European Ministry of Economy and Finance with a specific budget.  blue-1283011_1920

At the global level, the French election confirmed the end of a wave of isolationism around the world, in addition to the victory of the center-right candidate over the far-right candidate in the Netherlands in March 2017. Considering this growing threat of populism around the world, world leaders have a huge responsibility to act for real change. During his first month in office, Emmanuel Macron multiplied international meetings with officials from NATO, the European Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. On June 1st, the decision of President Trump to leave the Paris Agreement on Climate Change constituted a big step towards isolationism for America. Signed by 195 countries in the world, the Paris Agreement is a symbol of the universal fight for sustainable development. For the first time, the entire world recognized as one, that we all share the same planet. And that we therefore must protect it together. Despite this withdrawal by the United States, this decision could foster greater actions between the remaining countries of the agreement and democratize leadership opportunities around the world. Reacting quickly after Trump’s announcement, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed clearly that the Paris Agreement “remains irreversible and will be implemented, not just by France, but by all the other nations”.

Thus, the French election was of great importance for the global community. Closely following the election, the world turned from the fear to see another country make the choice of isolationism to the new hope generated by a pro-globalization President. This new generation of young leaders, progressivists open to the world, can create an enabling environment to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and create a better future for all. But this victory is also a huge responsibility, as it is a call for real change. This is therefore time to take advantage of the collective strength the international community provides to make our planet great again.

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